The month of April is when doctors and patients alike unite to spread the word about oral cancer in the hopes of raising awareness and saving lives. Oral cancer refers to any cancer impacting the lips, tongue, gums, inside of the cheeks, or the roof or floor of the mouth. Although less frequently discussed than many other common cancers, oral cancer is the sixth most common type of cancer in the world. Because the signs and symptoms are often overlooked or brushed off as smaller problems, it is unfortunately often more deadly than need be because it isn’t diagnosed until a late stage. Here, we’ve outlined a few of the symptoms of this dangerous disease, as well as steps you can take to avoid putting yourself and your mouth at risk!
Signs Of Oral Cancer
The most common signs of oral cancer include a sore in the mouth or on the lips that doesn’t heal, loose permanent teeth, a lump in or around the mouth, discoloration inside the mouth (often red or white patches of skin), difficulty swallowing, mouth pain, and/or ear pain. It is important to note that having one or more of these symptoms is not a clear indication of cancer and could be the result of another infection or issue, but if you have any of these symptoms for more than two weeks, make an appointment with your dentist.
Ways To Prevent Cancer Of The Mouth
Cancer develops when mutations and changes happen to the once-healthy DNA of a cell. Because of these abnormal mutations, cells that would normally die begin to accumulate and can form tumors or spread to other cells in the mouth and, eventually, the rest of the body. Cancer is a tricky disease that can unfortunately strike even the healthiest people, however there are steps you can take to lessen your chances of developing it.
- Avoid all tobacco use entirely, or quit immediately. Smoking and chewing tobacco contain harmful, carcinogenic chemicals that damage cells and are known to lead to cancer.
- Use alcohol sparingly, or abstain entirely. Alcohol is known to put stress on cells and is thought to be a factor in many types of cancer. If you choose to drink, limit yourself to two standard drinks daily or less.
- Protect your lips and mouth from UV light. Do not skip your lips when lathering on your SPF! Use a lip balm with a high SPF to protect your skin, and avoid direct sunlight when possible.
- Vaccinate yourself and children against Human Papillomavirus (HPV). A surprising 80 percent of sexually active people, both men and women, will contract HPV at some point in their lives. This virus is the precursor to developing multiple kinds of cancer, including oropharyngeal cancer, or cancer of the throat. A simple series of vaccinations is all it takes to protect oneself against some of the most harmful strains of this virus.
Keeping up with your oral hygiene regimen and being familiar with what your healthy mouth looks and feels like is the first line of defense in identifying problems as they arise.
If you think you’ve noticed something strange in your mouth, or would simply like to know more about the causes and risks of oral cancer, don’t hesitate to call Olympia Fields Dental Associates to book a checkup today!